North Korea is trying to better understand President Donald J. Trump, reportedly hoping to speak with Republican analysts so the country’s leaders can “figure him out.”
According to a report in The Washington Post on Tuesday, “North Korean government officials have been quietly trying to arrange talks with Republican-linked analysts in Washington, in an apparent attempt to make sense of President Trump and his confusing messages to Kim Jong Un’s regime.”
The report says the North Korean officials have been reaching out to Asia experts with GOP ties, dating back to before the recent bandy of warnings between the Trump administration and Pyongyang were exchanged.
The North Koreans don’t appear to be interested in negotiations about their nuclear program, but with President Trump’s administration unwilling to talk with them, they are seeking to better understand him.
“Their number one concern is Trump,” one person familiar with North Korea’s outreach told the Post. “They can’t figure him out.”
According to the report, Pyongyang has sent requests to seven organizations, all of which have helped arrange and host meetings between North Korean officials and Americans in the past.
“They’re on a new binge of reaching out to American scholars and ex-officials,” said Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst and current North Korean expert at the Heritage Foundation. “While such meetings are useful, if the regime wants to send a clear message, it should reach out directly to the U.S. government.”
Klingner declined the North Korean invitation, as did Douglas Paal, who served as an Asia expert at the National Security Council under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He is now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
North Korean officials had asked Paal to arrange talks with American experts with Republican ties, in a neutral location.
“The North Koreans are clearly eager to deliver a message. But I think they’re only interested in getting some travel, in getting out of the country for a bit,” Paal reportedly said.
As the North continues to seek forums to be recognized as a nuclear state, having no interest in talking about denuclearizing, and proceeding with nuclear ambitions, President Trump and others in his administration have been bandying threats and insults with the regime’s officials.
Earlier this month, North Korean state news threatened the U.S. with a hydrogen bomb, which could create an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) with the potential to abolish prominent parts of the country’s electrical grid.
During a forceful UN address last week, President Trump said, “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
Then, in a Saturday tweet, President Trump wrote: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”
Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
North Korea’s foreign minister called Trump’s words a declaration of war and said the country would shoot down U.S. aircraft, even if they were outside of North Korean airspace.
With diplomacy seemingly off the table, attempts to connect with Republican-connected experts and analysts does not signal a willingness to negotiate with the U.S., according to the Post.
Pyongyang officials are increasingly interested in making sense of Trump’s strategy and intentions, according to the report. In the past, officials have met with Americans in neutral places like Geneva and Kuala Lumpur.
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